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Inside a United Airlines Customer Service Meeting

Helen McCarthy: I'd like to start by welcoming our CEO, Mr. Oscar Munoz, to our weekly customer service response meeting. Mr. Munoz, it's truly an honor to have you here.

Oscar Munoz: Thank you, Helen. Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant, was a big proponent of Management By Wandering Around. And with all the bad press I — I mean, the airline — has been getting, I wanted to get a better sense of some of the problems we've been facing. So I thought I would wander down here, among the average people, and see how you deal with complaints. I can't imagine we have very many, so this won't take long, will it?

Helen: Actually, sir, we spend every Thursday dealing with hundreds of complaints. Lately, we've also been taking half of every Monday to manage weekend complaints. We discuss each one and then figure out a response for the little bastar— I mean, the customers.

Munoz: Heh, nice catch. Well, let's see if I can help you speed things along. Who's first?

Kayla Thompson: We've got a female passenger traveling with her 12-year-old daughter who was seated next to a man who kept groping her.* Apparently he was already intoxicated when he boarded, tried to grope one of the flight attendants, and then we kept serving him alcohol.

Munoz: How bad did it get?

Thompson: The woman told the crew, but they couldn't move her, so she made an official complaint—

Munoz (waggles his fingers): Oooh, an official complaint.

(Everyone laughs.)
Thompson: —good one, sir. We're going to send her four $100 gift vouchers, but not admit to anything. We don't need the FAA breathing down our necks again.

Munoz: Sounds good. Who's next?

Barry Smoot: A newlywed couple wanted to sit together on the way to their honeymoon, and even purchased their tickets together, but they were upset that the system charged them an additional $80 for it. They complained to the gate attendant who kicked the complaint up to us.

Munoz: Have they taken their return flight yet?

Smoot: No, not yet.

Munoz: Cancel their tickets, and rebook them on separate flights. Put her in the last row in the middle seat, and put him in a business class aisle seat.

Smoot: How does that punish them?

Munoz: He'll gloat about it when they land, and she'll blame him. They'll be divorced in three years.

Thompson: Speaking of couples, we've got a young couple flying to their destination wedding in Costa Rica, tried to move seats during a layover.* The plane was half full, so they jumped up to economy plus. Flight staff asked them to return to their seat, which they did. Twenty minutes later, a U.S. Marshall boarded the flight and kicked them off.

Munoz: Did they get another flight?

Thompson: We put them on a flight the next morning.

Munoz: Did you charge them a ticket change fee?

Thompson: No, sir.

Munoz: Oooh, too bad. Missed opportunities, people. Remember, we need to always look for tiny ways to gouge the customer. Small nicks and cuts, not shovel-sized stabbings. Your victims shouldn't know they're dying until you've drained them dry.

Thompson: We've had some media people asking about this one. What should we say?

Munoz: What do you recommend? Anyone?

Thompson: Say they were drunk and became verbally abusive?

Munoz: Let's call that the nuclear option. Stick a pin in it and we'll circle back.

McCarthy: Say we found contraband items in their bags?

Munoz: No, because that means they snuck it past TSA, and they give me enough trouble as it is. Plus, people might think we were snooping in their luggage.

McCarthy: Don't we?

Munoz: Well, some of the baggage handlers have been known to help themselves, but we say it's not our responsibility.

Smoot: Ooh, I know! Say they tried to repeatedly change seats, and that they failed to comply with crew instructions!

Munoz: Nice one, Smoot! You'll go far in this airline!

(The others congratulate Barry on his insights.)

Munoz: Well, folks, I have to to go my next meeting. But this has certainly been an eye opener. I didn't realize we had so many complaints. I only know about the ones in the press, so thank you for the education.

Smoot: Mr. Munoz? Before you go, what was the final result of that doctor we dragged off the plane?

Munoz: Oh, man, you guys will love this! His two front teeth were knocked out, right? Well, the Chicago PD inventoried one of the teeth and have it in their evidence lockup. We sent his luggage on to Louisville even though we pulled him off. And two days ago, I promised we weren't going to fire anyone over the whole incident.*

(Everyone laughs and applauds.)

McCarthy: Mr. Munoz, it has been a real pleasure to watch you work.

* Actual incidents from the last two weeks.

Note: This is satire, and not a true transcript of any meeting at United Airlines. However, the incidents marked with a *
actually happened since Dr. Dao was dragged off an airplane in Chicago.

Photo credit: Luis Argerich (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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